Who is Vladimir Putin? How Russian president rose from KGB officer

Vladimir Putin is the president of Russia and has been in office as president or prime minister for 22 years.

He entered politics in 1996 after a career in the KGB, first becoming Russia’s acting president in 1999.

President Putin is under global pressure to end the full-scale attack launched on Ukraine by Russia.

High-level talks between the countries have begun, but there have been reports of further Russian missile strikes.

The EU further announced sanctions yesterday and pledged to fund weapons for Ukraine’s fight against Russia.

Putin is a controversial figure both within and outside of Russia for his authoritarianism and human rights record, Wales Online reported.

But when did Vladimir Putin come to power in Russia – and what did he do before that?

When did Putin come to power?

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a joint press conference with German Chancellor following their meeting over Ukraine security at the Kremlin, in Moscow, on February 15, 2022. - The Kremlin, earlier on February 15, 2022, confirmed a pullback of some Russian forces from Ukraine's borders but said the move was planned and stressed Russia would continue to move troops across the country as it saw fit.  (Photo by Mikhail Klimentyev / Sputnik / AFP) (Photo by MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images)
Vladimir Putin first became acting Russian president in 1999

Vladimir Putin has been president of Russia since 2012, having previously occupied the role from 1999 until 2008.

He was the country’s prime minister from 1999 to 2000, and then again between 2008 and 2012.

Born in Saint Petersburg (then Leningrad) in 1952, Putin was an intelligence officer before entering Russian politics.

His grandfather, Spiridon Putin, worked as a personal cook for both Lenin and Stalin.

In 1999, Putin was appointed as acting Prime Minister by the ailing and increasingly erratic President Boris Yeltsin, who resigned from his own post that December.

Yeltsin made it clear that Putin was his preferred successor for the presidency.

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Yeltsin was indeed succeeded by Putin as president of Russia.

Putin won the presidential election of March 2000 in the first round, with 53 per cent of the vote.

After serving two terms as president, Putin was forced to stand down in 2008, as the Russian constitution barred him from serving three consecutive terms.

He was replaced by Dmitry Medvedev, and returned to his previous position of Prime Minister.

However, Putin was widely regarded to be the real power behind Medvedev’s throne.

After Medvedev served a single four-year term as president from 2008 to 2012, he was again replaced in the job by Putin, who has served as president ever since.

What is the KGB?

The KGB was the Soviet Union’s main intelligence and security agency. It was responsible for both internal security functions and intelligence work overseas.

It was officially dissolved in 1991, when the Soviet Union collapsed. The KGB was subsequently succeeded by the Federal Security Service, or FSB, which remains Russia’s main security agency.

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Was Putin in the KGB?

Vladimir Putin, chairman of the External Relations Committee of Saint Petersburg, looks on at Mariinsky Palace in St. Petersburg in this August 20, 1991 file photo.  Putin triumphed in Russia's presidential election on March 4, 2012 and, tears rolling down his cheeks, called his victory a turning point that had prevented the country from falling into the hands of enemies.  REUTERS/Sergey Kompaniychenko/Files (RUSSIA - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS HEADSHOT TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
Vladimir Putin was a KGB officer until 1991

Vladimir Putin was a KGB officer before entering Russian politics.

He joined the KGB in 1975 and initially worked in counterintelligence, before being transferred to monitor foreigners and diplomatic officials in Leningrad.

Between 1985 and 1990, Putin was posted to Dresden in East Germany, being given a cover identity as a translator.

However, little is known about what he actually did during this period, and there are conflicting accounts of how significant – or otherwise – his role was.

According to Putin’s own account, he resigned from the KGB in August 1991, having obtained the rank of lieutenant colonel.

In 1998, he was appointed as director of the FSB, the KGB’s successor security and intelligence organisation.


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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